How Microsoft measures datacenter water and energy use to improve Azure Cloud sustainability


Written by Noelle Walsh, Corporate Vice President, Cloud Operations + Innovation


One of the biggest topics of discussion at COP26, the global climate conference held in November 2021, was how a lack of reliable and consistent measurement hampers progress on the path to Net Zero. I have been reflecting on this issue and, on this Earth Day, I would like to provide an update on how we are measuring energy and water use at our datacenters to improve sustainability across the Azure Cloud.


Today, we’re sharing an important update on how Microsoft, and our datacenters, are helping to solve our part of this measurement challenge.


While the environmental goals are similar, each industry has unique challenges in measuring its carbon emissions to build its sustainability strategy. It’s one of the key reasons we, together with ClimateWorks Foundation and 20 other leading organizations, launched the Carbon Call. It’s also why we developed Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability, an Azure-based platform that allows organizations to combine disparate data sources into one place and help provide insights into how to improve their sustainability approaches.


You’ve told us just how important measuring energy and water consumption from our datacenters is in taking sustainability into account for commercial decisions. Below you will see, for the first time, our datacenter PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) and WUE (Water Usage Effectiveness) metrics. To address these capabilities, we set design goals—our theoretical estimates of the most efficient we can operate our datacenters—and ensure we have measurements of our actual efficiencies. These targets can vary between datacenter generations and usage; for instance, newer datacenter generations as well as datacenters operating at peak utilization are more efficient. We track these statistics at a global level and by our operating geographies—Americas, Asia Pacific, and EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa).


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